Saddleworth? All that way just to walk the dog? Honestly, the countryside is closer than you think…
I moved into New Moston about 30 years ago, close to Moston Brook Valley. You may have heard of Moston Brook Valley before. If you drive up Broadway from Oldham Road and notice the mature trees on each side then you’ve passed right through it.
This is an invitation to take a stroll around it but really I’d prefer you to stay away. That way I could keep it all to myself!
Behind the trees the valley stretches in one direction towards Hardman Fold and onto Wrigley Head where it links to the Rochdale Canal. In the other direction it incorporates the Lower Failsworth Memorial Land and borders Moston Fairway, and beyond there’s a nature reserve.
There are pathways, a park with bowling greens and tennis courts, allotments, meadows, waterside walks and woodland. All slap bang in the middle of a city suburb! Early morning, warm afternoon or dusky evening it really is surprisingly peaceful.
It wasn’t aways like this. When my children were small we used it as a short cut to the park or nearest bus stop and occasionally I’d take them there to pick wild berries. It was wild, fairly open and bleak in parts – very grassy and boggy in others. The paths were rough, usually muddy and overgrown.
In winter it was largely inaccessible. Summer was better but the boggy areas were popular with flying bugs. The terrain was perfect for local bikers who roared around it in the evening. I regularly shook my fist at them but they didn’t stop.
Historically it truly was wasteland. Used as a dumping ground by local industry, including a brickworks, town councils freely deposited household waste there. In the early part of the 1900s it must have been a real eye-sore. Over the years the dumping ceased and the land was gradually infilled.
In the 1970s and 80s footpaths and steps were created while landscaping included the planting of trees and shrubs. For a while it even housed an urban farm! There were long periods when it was simply left to go wild.
Gradually, the trees have matured and nature has worked its magic. There is now an abundance of wildlife, birds and fauna that simply wasn’t there before. Funding has come from every direction: Manchester and Oldham Councils, DEFRA, The Environment Agency, United Utilities, Lancaster Club Trustees, local business Onefile and even Asda and Tesco.
This has enabled overgrown areas to be cut back, good quality paths laid, signposts, new toilets and several new stone wall entrances to be built. This year stone carvings and wood sculptures have been added and even more improvements are planned. The future looks good.
There are lots of opportunities to get out, take part and, if you fancy it, volunteer. Organised activities take place throughout the year including Family Fun Days, bug-hunting, den-making, bat survey training, small mammal trapping, art workshops, carol singing (at Christmas!).
Regular clean-up operations are organised by the Canal and River Trust and local residents volunteer to pick up rubbbish when they find it.
Come along, take a walk and see for yourself. There’s a Moston Brook Friends Group on Facebook (firstname.lastname@example.org) or you can contact the Moston Brook Project Officer (email@example.com) for more info.
… and you drive miles to enjoy the countryside? Honestly, it’s closer than you think.
Images by Tricia Beddow and courtesy of the Moston Brook project.